Sunday, April 20, 2014 5:13 PM
Published on: Thursday, March 21, 2013
By Donna Broadway
GAITHERSBURG - On the morning of March 12, a mother and her two elementary aged children were hit by an unidentified driver while walking along the sidewalk of North Summit Avenue in Gaithersburg.
This was the third pedestrian accident in less than two hours. Earlier accidents include a Watkins Mill student and a pedestrian on Wisconsin Ave.
Since January, there have been 12 pedestrian accidents in Montgomery County with four of them ending in fatalities, an increase from 3 pedestrian fatalities at this same time last year.
High rates of pedestrian and bicycle accidents have haunted Montgomery County for years. In 2007, after 17 pedestrians were killed and 412 pedestrians were involved in accidents, County Executive Ike Leggett launched the Pedestrian Safety Initiative.
In 2012, a total of six pedestrians were killed in accidents, nearly the amount of the fatalities in the first quarter of 2013.
“The recent spate of pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County is a terrible tragedy. The county is committed to keeping pedestrians safe, and we have engaged in an aggressive program to reduce collisions through engineering efforts and enhanced enforcement and education that is having excellent results,” said County Executive Leggett.
Under the Pedestrian Safety Initiative, collisions have been reduced 12 percent and fatalities are down 68 percent but Jeff Dunckel, Pedestrian Safety Coordinator says there is more work to be done.
“Pedestrian collisions are a serious business and you can’t overhype that. We are always concerned about pedestrian collisions but we are especially concerned when they end in fatalities. It means that people are driving faster and those are the collisions that are the most damaging to people. We are concerned about this and we are working hard to try to reduce the number of collisions,” said Dunckel.
The Pedestrian Safety Initiative has identified ten high collisions areas or High Incidence Areas (HIAs) in the county.
• Colesville Road from Noyes Road to Fenton Street in Silver Spring
• Connecticut Avenue from Georgia Avenue to Independence Street in Aspen Hill.
• The intersection of Colesville Road and University Boulevard or Four Corners in Silver Spring, Maryland
• Georgia Avenue between Spring Street and Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring.
• Piney Branch Road from Flower Avenue to Montgomery–Prince Georges County line in Silver Spring
• Randolph Road from Selfridge Road and Colie Drive in the Wheaton-Glenmont area.
• Reedie Drive Veirs Mill Road to Georgia Avenue
• Rockville Pike from Hubbard drive to Halpine Road in Rockville
• Wisconsin Avenue from Montgomery Avenue to Leland Street in Bethesda
• Old Georgetown Road between Wisconsin Avenue and Cordell Avenue in Bethesda
After identifying these areas, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the Maryland State Highway Administration conduct a safety audit to determine how to make the roadways safer – often widening sidewalks, installing pedestrian signals and crosswalks, and improving lighting.
“I think Montgomery County is now more pedestrian friendly. We have been working on this project for a number of years now and we’ve put in a whole bunch of traffic calming projects in locations where we have a lot of pedestrians. We have been reducing our collisions in those locations. We have identified our high incidence areas and conducted targeted education and enforcement with the engineering improvements and have seen a 45 percent decrease in pedestrian collisions,” said Dunckel.
Emphasis has been placed on raising pedestrian awareness with recommendations of wearing light colored or reflective clothing and being alert when crossing roadwasy but Esther Bowring, public information officer for Montgomery County, says that it is a shared responsibility with drivers.